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On Second Vote, Silberberg, Chapman Support Affordable Housing Project

First-time councilmembers granted revote after initially voting against Reed Avenue complex.

Alexandria City Council approved plans Saturday to construct a new affordable housing complex at the corner of E. Reed Avenue and Route 1 with a vote that was conducted twice, after the two dissenting council members asked to vote again so they could support it.

The project submitted by nonprofit AHC calls for a three- to five-story building with 78 affordable housing units that will be marketed to residents with incomes up to 60 percent of the area’s median income for 60 years.

The hang-up for Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg and Councilman John Chapman—two members of council serving for the first time who both campaigned for more affordable housing in the city—was on parking at the complex.

As part of a financing package for the project, AHC will charge residents $35 a month for parking in a below-grade garage. Several residents of nearby Lynhaven expressed concerns the new renters would park for free on already crowded streets to circumvent the parking fee in the new building.

The city’s Planning Commission agreed with the Lynhaven residents at a Jan. 4 hearing, recommending parking at the complex be made free to residents.

The parking fee was seen as an integral part of the financing and tax credits for the project.

Silberberg offered a motion to uphold the Planning Commission’s recommendation. Chapman supported it, but the five other members of council voted it down. Both argued some of the tenants the building is trying to attract simply need cars for jobs and the cost of parking might be too much.

“Parking is an issue we will discuss,” Mayor Bill Euille said. “I honestly believe [the project] is something we need to do. If we don’t do it, it sends a message we don’t care. We do care about providing affordable housing.” 

Silberberg and Chapman later voted against a motion without the commission’s recommendation.  

During a lunch break after the vote, Euille asked Chapman if he realized he had just placed a vote against affordable housing, according to The Washington Post. Silberberg told Patch on Monday that Euille asked her the same question.

The pair asked for a re-vote, which was granted at the end of the meeting. Chapman and Silberberg then both voted in favor of the project without the Planning Commission recommendation.

“I think this was probably one of the first times I have gotten lost in the weeds,” Chapman said after the revote, adding while pursuing affordable housing, it’s important not to get hung up on “sort of the small issues” like density, transportation and, in this case, parking.

Silberberg urged and encouraged AHC not to charge for parking when she voted for the project.

She told Patch on Monday she felt council should have approved the project with the Planning Commission recommendation.

“Did I err in my [initial] vote? I am proud of my vote and John’s vote,” Silberberg said. “We have to do the right thing not only for the AHC residents but the people of Lynhaven.”   

Silberberg said she received indications from Euille that he agreed with her perspective. She thought there was a way to work out a deal on the parking and there would be discussion of several more options.

“Discussion was so fast and furious and I tried to usher in my motion,” Silberberg said. “I voted for the project because I wanted to be on record of supporting affordable housing. That’s the right thing to do.”

amy lu January 17, 2013 at 06:22 PM
Drew, is there a DSUP condition excluding the AHC project's residence from eligibility for a permit if a residential parking permit district is created? If not, shame no one thought to ask for it. Current residents are told "there will be no adverse impact" because the parking ratio formulas are outdated and experience shows a smaller parking demand from affordable housing occupants. But in reality, Council doesn't want to get mired in revising parking ordinance. My experience: the Old Town Parking Study (OTAPS) recommended few changes and the Mt Vernon Ave/Del Ray study consultant conclusion is based on faulty data collection. Sigh.
Drew Hansen January 17, 2013 at 07:56 PM
Amy, if you click on the link in the second paragraph that says "The project," you can view the memo on the entire project. But because people want table service around here, here is just part of the parking conditions: "Provide a Parking Management Plan with the final site plan submission. The Parking Management Plan shall be approved by the Departments of P&Z and T&ES prior to the release of the final site plan and shall at a minimum include the following: a. Implement incentives as part of this parking plan to maximize the use of the parking garage by residents of the building. b. Provide controlled access into the underground garage for vehicles and pedestrians. The controlled access shall be designed to allow convenient access to the underground parking for residents and visitors. c. Include a plan of the garage facility, a description of access control equipment and an explanation of how the garage will be managed. d. Within 18 months of 90% occupancy of the rental units, a review of the parking management will be required to determine that the parking is being managed as agreed to. Changes to the parking management plan may be approved administratively by the Directors of T&ES and P&Z."
Drew Hansen January 17, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Also, there was a request that City Manager Rashad Young include analysis and a recommendation on the implementation of a residential parking district, the implementation of a restricted overnight parking district and the creation of additional street parking on Reed Avenue.
Sherry Henderson January 18, 2013 at 09:16 PM
I wonder how Frank Fannon would have voted on this issue. Frank, I can only imagine, would have been for it and asking the right questions to staff. Oh well, I guess we'll never know. Hey, I thought Frank would be on council, now, but even Alicia Hughes beat him in votes (which shocked me), and now I'm sure he's back to 'making the big bucks' over at his office at SunTrust Mortgage. My point is that at least with Frank Fannon on the Alexandria City Council, there was someone who was a businessman, who dealt with housing, with his job, who could quite often put the pieces together, much faster, than most people, because it was all second-nature to him. I'm a Democrat who hopes that Frank Fannon runs for a seat on the Alexandria City Council in 2015. We need some 'balance' on council, which we don't have now.
Kathlynne January 20, 2013 at 06:58 PM
If we could get people to clean up after themselves and stop littering we wouldn’t have this problem added to the parking situation. Have NEVER lived anywhere where the streets have had to be cleaned on a weekly basis because people are so inconsiderate. It’s embarrassing. <<<<no parking on one side of the street because the opposite side is being swept in the morning>>>>

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